Two leading obstetricians talk us through the three distinct stages of labour and what happens in each stage. Overall, they say labour for the first child should last 12-14 hours.
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Dr.Maggie Blott: There are three stages of labor, the first stage, the second stage and the third stage. The first stage of labor is divided into two parts, the Latent Phrase which is first stage, and the Active Phrase. Now, if you're having your first baby, the Latent Phrase, the early part of labor it can take actually quite long time, most women spend that time at home. Dr. Zoe Penn: And then you go into the so-called Active Phase of labor which lasts from three centimeters to fully dilated when the cervix is fully opened and ready for the baby to be born. Dr. Maggie Blott: By that stage contractions become very regularly, they'll be very intense lasting 50 to 60 seconds with each contraction and coming every -- by every 3 to 4 minutes. Dr. Zoe Penn: And then there is the second stage of labor and often people refer to this is the pushing stage. But very often if you've got an epidural in you may be asked just to rest for an hour of second stage before you actually start pushing. Dr. Maggie Blott: Now it's the second stage of labor where you start to push and this is an impulsive movement to push, naturally to push the baby out of the birth canal, not process it, will take about an hour for the first baby and it can be much shorter with the second or subsequent baby. At the end of the second stage the baby would have been born and then you went to the third stage of labor which is 100% to the after-birth is delivered. And that process takes 5 or 10 minutes usually after the birth of the baby. Dr. Zoe Penn: So a second stage can be divided into the Passive stage, when nothing very much is happening, and then the Active stage of labor when you'll be asked to actually push down to deliver the baby. And then after the baby is completely delivered, the cord is cut and then you have to deliver the placenta and the membranes and that's the so-called third stage of labor. Now the whole birth process itself, so the whole of labor, whole of first labor is about 13 hours long. But it becomes shorter each time. So second labor is about eight hours long, third labor is about six hours long and so on. Dr. Maggie Blott: The average length of labor would be about 12 to 14 hours for first baby, and anytime, for second baby can be much, much shorter than that. But for first baby about 12 to 14 hours. It starts off gradually so most women can cope very well with the first part of the first stage of labor. Many women will need some form of pain relief during the Active Phase of the first stage and during the second stage.

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